Swiatek’s departure means this year’s tournament will see four first-time grand slam semi-finalists battling for a maiden major title, with more tense, thrilling uncertainty to come. –Tumaini Carayol, The Guardian, 9 June 2021

Roland Garros the venue for ninety years

By Roger Childs

If Wimbledon is the most prestigious of the tennis grand slams, the Paris tournament is the most flamboyant. 

First contested in 1891, the tournament moved in 1928 to a new stadium in the French capital named after a World War One aviator, Roland Garros. Today it is the only one of the four grand slam tournaments played on a clay surface. 

A familiar sight in matches is players hitting their shoes to dislodge the red clay from their soles. Another unique feature in European clay tournaments is the sight of an umpire leaping out of the elevated chair to pinpoint where the ball has landed in a disputed call.

There is plenty of colour and style about the French Open with its vocal spectators, and of course, the red clay on which the players slip and slide. However, this year, like last, the crowds have been smaller because of covid-19 restrictions and the spectator participation has been more muted as masks are obligatory.

The television coverage is always superb and French cameramen are known to sometimes linger on the female form and face both on court and in the crowd.

Some players are specialists on the dusty orange surface with the best known being Rafael Nadal. With thirteen victories in the Paris grand slam he is known as the King of Clay. It would be a brave man or woman who would bet against the Spaniards notching up number 14.

Semi-finals time — the men

Four of the top six seeds will be competing to make the final. Nadal will meet Novak Djokovic the world number one. The latter was pushed hard in his last two matches and was two sets down in the fourth round against talented Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti. Then in the quarter finals he had a tough match against another Italian, Matteo Berrettini, but came through in four sets. 

Meanwhile Nadal didn’t drop a set until his quarter final against Argentine Diego Schwartsman, but finished off the four setter with a 6-0 score in the final set. He must be favoured to qualify for his 14th final. 

In the other semi Stephanos Tsitsipas meets Alexander Zverev. The Greek was very impressive in his quarter-final beating world number two Daniil Medevedev in three sets. Zverev had an easier quarter and dispatched the unseeded Spaniard Davidovich Fokina losing only six games in the three sets.

Semi-finals time — the women

There will be new grand slam champion on Saturday (Paris time) as none of the semi-finalists has ever reached a final before. None of the top 16 seeds made the last four!

Tamara Zidanšek from Slovenia will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova from Russia and Czech Barbora Krejčíková will meet the talented Maria Sakkari from Greece. All four European women looked impressive in their quarter finals and Krejčíková after being 0-3 down in the first set was focused and consistent in beating the last American hope, the temperamental 17 year old Coco Gauff, 7-6, 6-3.

Sakkari with her reliable serve and powerful ground strokes comfortably beat last year’s champion Pole Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-4. Meanwhile Pavlyuchenkova and Zidanšek had tougher quarter finals and needed three sets to qualify for the last four.

Any one of the four could be crowned champion at the weekend, however I would give Sakkari the edge.

2021 champions

On the men’s side it is hard to see Nadal not picking up his fourteenth title. If he does win he will pass Roger Federer as the player with most grand slams in history – 21. However, whoever wins the women’s final will be a first time grand slam champion. 

There is plenty to play for as the eight semi-finalist battle it out and entertaining, high quality tennis is guaranteed in the last six games of Roland Garros 2021.